There are 107 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the nation. In 1965, in Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965, Congress officially defined an HBCU as an institution whose principal mission was and is the education of black Americans, was accredited and was established before 1964. The first HBCU, Cheney University in Pennsylvania was founded in 1837. All HBCUs play a critical role in the American higher education system. For most of America’s history, African Americans who received a college education could only get it from an HBCU. Today, HBCUs remain one of the surest ways for an African American, or student of any race, to receive a quality education.
While the 105 HBCUs represent just three percent of the nation’s institutions of higher learning, they graduate nearly 20 percent of African Americans who earn undergraduate degrees. HBCUs, because of their unique sensibility to the special needs of young African American minds, remain the institutions that demonstrate the most effective ability to graduate African American students who are poised to be competitive in the corporate, research, academic, governmental and military arenas.
UNCF supports minority students at many schools that are not HBCUs. However, UNCF directly supports 38 private HBCUs.
HBCUs are experts at educating African Americans:
- HBCUs graduate over 50 percent African American professionals.
- HBCUs graduate over 50 percent of African American public school teachers and 70 percent of African American dentists.
- 50 percent of African Americans who graduate from HBCUs go on to graduate or professional schools.
- HBCUs award more than one in three of the degrees held by African Americans in natural sciences.
- HBCUs award one-third of the degrees held by African Americans in mathematics.
- According to a 2004 McKinsey study, the average graduation rate at many HBCUs is higher than the average graduation rate for African Americans at majority institutions